Last Bites of Translator Feast At Hand

The final element of a radio spectrum “land rush” that began more than a decade ago involving FM translator stations is upon us.

Translators exploded onto the scene as a way for broadcasters to gain new FM signals on the cheap back in 2003, when some clever religious broadcasters flooded a filing window which resulted in the tendering of thousands of translator-station construction permits. These folks inspired other spectrum-spectulators to jump in, sensing that this would be the last chance to colonize the FM dial in the United States. They all then sold the majority of these permits, for thousands to millions of dollars apiece.

These translators have been mostly utilized to give HD Radio-only programming (like that found on FM HD-2 and -3 subchannels) an analog presence, which some have likened to launching an entirely new station, and to allow AM stations a foothold on the FM dial. Since that first rush, the FCC’s opened multiple opportunities for broadcasters to purchase existing translator stations, most recently as part of FCC Chair Ajit Pai’s vaunted AM revitalization initiative. Read More

Broadcasters to SEC: Digital A Variable Priority

In its latest quarterly filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Emmis Communications, the Indianapolis-based broadcast conglomerate who developed the NextRadio/TagStation suite and is a major player in HD Radio, had some interesting things to say about both technologies.

Back in 2013, Emmis inked a deal with Sprint in which broadcasters would pay $15 million a year to Sprint through 2016, in quarterly installments, in exchange for Sprint adding FM receiver chips to some 30 million devices on its network. Emmis has been working with other broadcasters to help shoulder the burden of this deal, but it would seem that industry enthusiasm for the project is coming up a bit short. Specifically (p. 30): Read More

Salem’s Open-Source Broadcast Software

While updating the Schnazz last I stumbled across an interesting arm of Salem Communications Corporation, America’s largest religious broadcast conglomerate (humble, tolerant, and generous). Salem Radio Labs, the company’s in-house radio software development arm, walks the talk. It’s built solutions for automation, live-assist, audio archiving and call screening from scratch, all under the open-source GNU General Public License.

Says the Labs FAQ, “we’re broadcasters, not a software company, and we believe that the fastest, most efficient way to produce quality software tools for broadcasting is by means of the Open Source development model.” The programs are optimized for the SuSE Linux distribution but other flavors are available.

Point/Counterpoint: Godcasting and its “Persecution”

Last week Paul @ Mediageek received an excitingly strained e-mail from Don Mills, the program director of Calvary Chapel of Twin Falls’ Calvary Satellite Network. CCTF/CSN is the largest single owner of translator stations in the United States. Paul’s been critical of Calvary Chapel in the past and Mills wrote to rebut the allegation that his network is actively trying to scarf up LPFM stations to add to its empire (CCTF/CSN currently owns or controls 300+ translators, has applied to construct another 300+, and has dozens of full-power FM affiliates).

While several applications for LPFM stations around the country have been tendered under shady circumstances by “Calvary Chapels,” Mills stressed that those Calvary Chapels are not associated with his operation.

Most notable, though, was the missive’s shifting tone. It began with an intimidatory “request for copies” of anything Mediageek has written or recorded about Calvary Chapel. Then, following a justification of CCTF/CSN’s existence and expansion, the man who controls 300+ radio stations remarked to the guy with a blog, “It just seems that you don’t like the fact that Christians have a voice on radio.” Read More